Friday, October 22, 2010

New Beginning 797

"Tell me you're kidding."

"No, Mr President. First contact has occurred and they've landed in Andorra."

The President put out his hand for the papers Don Carlos was carrying.

"That little space between France and Spain that on a map looks like the rectum of Europe? That Andorra?"

"I wouldn't put it like that in an election year, Sir. No reason to offend minorities in an election year."

"Don, how many immigrants from Andorra do we have?"

"They tend to band together."

The phone buzzed. The President put it on speaker but didn't manage to get a greeting out.

"Can you fucking believe this? Andorra. God-damn, they're about four mountains where Frogs and Spics crossbreed with their God-damn sisters. How are we going to handle this?"

"By that, Jim, I take it you mean how will I handle it and can you tag along?"

"Tag team? Yes, good idea, Mr. President. Think about it. Andorran sisters!"

"Dammit, Jim, do you always think with your dick? How are we gonna handle first contact?"

The phone was silent as Jim considered the question. "I suppose we could buy them a couple drinks and try the old lint on the sleeve trick."

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

"Not so much tag along, I'm going to bring Sylvia and her big bottomed thong. She can flash the aliens and hopefully, if Don Carlos has his moobies out, we got legs, orchestra and balustrade covered if the aliens are looking for a cheap date."

--Dave F.

Evil Editor said...

Sounds like a fun idea.

I would replace paragraphs 5 through 7 with a simple "I'm afraid so, Mr. President."

Also, I'd trim the next-to-last paragraph to:

"Can you fucking believe this? Andorra?! Four mountains where Frogs and Spics crossbreed with their God-damn sisters? How are we gonna handle this?"

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a new volume of that 1960's "Mouse that Roared" series, but with the original witticism replaced by potty humor and ethnic slurs galore. Yuck.

Anonymous said...

You lost me at spic.

But hey, maybe I'm a minority and, yanno, we all band together.

Or maybe this just felt gross.

Dave F. said...

One insult per nationality group, PLEASE! ! !
...the rectum of Europe...
...four mountains where Frogs
...and Spics
...crossbreed with their God-damn sisters...

Let me say it this way. I have a copy of "I love you Beth Cooper" sitting on my shelf because it was way to over the top for a 12 year old's mother. She asked me not to give it to him. Profanity, sex, and vulgarity -- all those good things. If you start with this opening, there are people who will not read past the first page. Many readers will take the vapors at that stuff.

I realize that novels like "Whores of Lost Atlantis" and "Private Parts" and that Joe Klein book by Anonymous and Vidal's "Myra Breckenridge," to name a few, do exist and have done well. However, as an unknown writer, this opening will be a hard sell. It has a limited market. I remember the crazed times where everyone read Jacqueline Susan like wildfire and now won't admit to even remembering they read those books. Or Poppy Z Brite's "Are you Loathsome Tonight" which I never see on the good books for Christmas gift lists. There are more inventive ways to be iconoclastic, inventive and comedic about society. Take comfort in knowing that "Jackass 3D" was screened at MOMA and had a $50 million opening weekend.

I like the idea of aliens landing in Andorra. It's got great potential. And I like the rude, crude and impolitic president. It's much better than being bland and unexciting. Bulworth is funny. Howard Beal was funny.

I write lots of dialog and I always fight with myself over keeping too much in dialog and not enough in exposition or description. I talk a lot and my characters talk a lot. At some point, you have to cut the dialog or the reader gets tired and quits reading.

Watch out for repetitive statements.
...little space between France and Spain ...
...they're about four mountains...

That's three mentions telling us that Andorra is a small country. We don't need it. We would get the idea if you said "immediately after saying Andorra, the president held his hand splayed out in a stop sign. He didn't want another reminder of how small Andorra was. Why did people think of size first and alien contact second. One would think that confirmation of life beyond earth took precedent of the flea-spec size of the country hosting them. Maybe they wanted a cheap hotel. Maybe their frequent flier miles etc...
He could envision so many philosophical questions to ask aliens, not to mention scientific and astronomical questions but no, nothing more serious wandered through each of his advisers minds than tiny Andorra, minuscule Andorra. President Philpott felt absolutely Aristotelian compared to them." Write something like that instead.

vkw said...

It's not bad. It's interesting. I had two problems. . . actually three.

First, I was put off by the racist comments. I wouldn't read it for that reason alone.

Second, I don't believe the President of the United States would risk offending minorities in this way. And, even if he/she would speak this way in private, he/she would be wary of the Nixon tapes and all the open mic gaffes. I think a president would be more careful.

Third, do you think the President of the United States actually puts a phone call on speaker from someone that is not announced? No one calls me directly, they have to get through my assistant and I am not important. Now it's true the President may have already been informed that so and so is on the phone and is being put through but there's a lot of conversation going on for that to be the case.


Anonymous said...

There's so much that is unlikely in every sentence of this, that I have to believe it is intentional and there'll be a pay off -- so I would read on, at least a few more paragraphs, to find out what the pay off might be.

Nothing wrong with objectionable characters so long as their nature is duly acknowledged by the narrative...

Anonymous said...

I'm with the second anonymous-- you lost me before "spic," actually. You lost me at "rectum".


1. On page one, we hate the President, and we don't see anyone else acting likeable. What's our reason for reading further?

2. Not only is he racist, he's racist against Andorrans. Why Andorrans? And not just a little racist against Andorrans; he keeps flogging the point. This is not believable. Very few people have any opinion at all about Andorrans.

3. Assuming this is a US president... even the last president we had, who was IMHO not very bright and IMHO not very nice, wasn't a racist. Overt racism of the kind you're portraying (as opposed to racism-by-omission) isn't common among powerful people in the U.S. In our country it's much more the province of the disaffected. So to sum up:

Not believable, not likeable. I'm gonna have to go with the anonymous who said "yuck".

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing this is some alternative reality where Mel Gibson became president, right?

Dave F. said...

You guys ought to go listen to the Nixon tapes. Now there was a president with a vulgar mouth and the meanness to put it to use.

Lyndon Johnson wasn't a slacker in the cursing and vulgarity department either.

I doubt you would hear any president after those two that using language like that.

_*rachel*_ said...

I spy Brenda Starr dialogue, so a few more tags wouldn't hurt. And less crudity, too.

This sounds pretty fun, kind of like Evan Manderey's First Contact. Eerily like it, actually.

Anonymous said...

Don't censor the author.

"...a few more dialogue tags wouldn't hurt."

I disagree.

Andrew said...

I have to admit that the untagged dialogue threw me for a bit - I imagined a Sir Humphrey type as first person narrator in the room with the President and Don and got confused as to who was replying to foul-mouthed Jim

Georgina said...

Hi, author.

The problem I have with this starts with the first sentence, I'm afraid. If we imagine what came before, it's something like this:

"Mr President, we've received word that aliens have invaded. Andorra, it looks like."

"Tell me you're kidding."

That doesn't feel like a genuine reaction to me. Wouldn't Pres be far more likely to say "What?" or "Huh?" or "I told you to stop drinking champagne for breakfast, Don"? "Tell me you're kidding" is one of those writerly phrases that rarely, if ever, gets said in real life, and it's a total clunker when you have it as the first words on the page.

Beyond that, we have scatological references and "They tend to band together" (yay, casual racism) and then the name-calling (yay, overt racism) and I'm not sure who the audience is for this but it's definitely not me. Racism, even when you do it with a wink, is still racism.

Good luck with it.

Evil Editor said...

I don't get all the comments about racism. There are racists in the world. Why can't any of them be characters in a book? I don't like racists any more than I like serial killers, torturers, rapists, murderers, bullies or car salesmen. But if bad people can't be characters, there won't be any mysteries or thrillers or police procedurals. There'd hardly be any books or movies. If you want your readers to cheer when your bad guy gets his, you need your bad guy to be despicable.

Kings Falcon said...

I actually liked it alot. I might cut some of the Andorra comments for two reasons: (1) they're repetative and I want to get to the point quicker; and (2) they will put some readers off given the ethic slurs.

I actually like the President. Not because he's showing signs of being a racist but because he's not overly caught up in PC BS. He's just been told aliens landed and he's fallen back on his personality rather than PC-isms.

The call that buzzes through needs a dialog tag since I don't know who is talking to the Pres. It took me two reads to guess the person who said "Can you fucking believe this?" wasn't one of the two original characters. I don't know if Jim is the Pres, the presumed aid talking to him or the caller. Tags will help prevent reader confusion.

Anonymous said...

Evil One, the problem is this is the first page, and we haven't met anybody who isn't despicable. The racism and the crudity just makes us go "ew," and we haven't got a reason to read further.

A friend of mine wrote a book that opened with a killer stalking a victim. It worked because the reader was fascinated by the killer's evil thinking and evil plotting. Rather than just grossed out.

There is a little bit to draw one onward here-- aliens have apparently landed in Andorra, a country about which most of us can say "I am aware it exists."

But then there's all this nastiness to wade through, and it doesn't seem worth it.

Anonymous said...

Alaskaravenclaw seems to have a penchant for speaking for others in sweeping generalizations.

A curious conceit, we think.

Evil Editor said...

First of all, it's 140 words, and there's only one paragraph of overt nastiness, and that paragraph is spoken by someone on the other end of a phone call. I'd hardly call that "wading" through nastiness. There are two characters actually in the scene, and I see no reason to call Don Carlos despicable. All we know about him is that he doesn't want the president to offend Andorrans.

I'm confident there are as many people fascinated by first contact with an alien race as by a killer stalking a victim.

Anonymous said...

I'm confident there are as many people fascinated by first contact with an alien race as by a killer stalking a victim.

Sure, me too. But the focus of this page isn't on the alien race, it's on what's wrong with the Andorrans and their small nation.

As for the mere 140 words-- don't be silly. You should know how much comparative attention is paid to the first page, vs. all the other pages in the book. One has only to watch the customers in a bookstore to see that. If they don't like the first page, it doesn't matter what's on the second. They'll never see it.

The majority of commenters mentioned either racism or crudity as an objection. So, you may feel you don't get that. But it's there. Do the commenters buy books?

Anonymous said...

But the focus of this page isn't on the alien race, it's on what's wrong with the Andorrans and their small nation.

Really? You get that? Fair enough, but you read it very differently from how I read it. Interesting that.

Gotta love diversity, eh?

Evil Editor said...

Actually, when I pick up a random book and look at the first page, I'm deciding whether the author's writing talent impresses me. I don't have enough information to know whether I'm supposed to like or hate the characters. Most Elmore Leonard books would fly back onto the shelves if offensiveness on page 1 were the criteria.

Book marketing departments frequently redo cover art and design in hopes of improving sales. I've never heard of an author being asked to rewrite the first page to improve sales.

Obviously there are readers who are offended by obscene language, racist epithets, etc., and they have every right to not read books with characters who use them (or to read them in hopes that the characters they hate will get their comeuppances), but when people submit their openings here, they are more interested in comments on the writing than on the likability of the characters. For all we know, the author's goal was to make us hate Jim or the president, in which case he seems to have succeeded marvelously.

Liz said...

Honestly, we used the word rectum to describe a country. I wanted to stop reading right there. That is just me personally. I think the tone and language will turn off people and I frankly have no idea what is really going on and I really don't care. I had re-read to figure who was saying what.

Evil Editor said...

Actually, "asshole of the world" is a well-known quote from #28 on the AFI's list of the 100 greatest films of all time. So letting one little phrase affect you so profoundly could cause you to miss out on things of merit.

BTW, Google "armpit of the world," anus of the world, armpit of America, etc, and you'll find they all refer to countries/states/cities.